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It’s jam-making time again!

IMG_7381We had a good harvest of blackcurrants from our garden and, using them as the base, I have made three types of jam.

For all 3 recipes, to sterilise the jars, I washed and dried them, placed them on a baking tray and heated them in the oven (160 degrees) for 10 minutes. To test when the jam was ready, I turned off the heat and spooned a little hot jam onto a chilled saucer (from the freezer). Once cool, you push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles a little, it’s ready and has reached setting point. If it is too runny to wrinkle, you return the pan to the heat and cook in 2-3 minute stages, removing the pan from the heat each time you do the saucer check, until the jam wrinkles. To seal the jam, I used the ‘upside down method’: you ladle the jam into the jars, filling them to the brim; then securely place the screw-top lids on top and turn upside down; leave to cool before turning the jars the right way up.

Here are the recipes (each makes about 4 jam jars of jam):

Blackcurrant and Strawberry Jam

(adapted from a recipe on https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/711653/summer-berry-jam)

  • 500g blackcurrants
  • 400g strawberries
  • 750g jam sugar (the one with added pectin)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • finger-tip size knob of butter ((optional)
  1. The night before you make your jam, layer the berries and sugar together in a very large bowl, then cover and set aside at room temperature. This helps the sugar to start dissolving so you don’t run the risk of over-cooking the fruit when you actually begin to make the jam. The next morning, give everything a quick stir, then set aside again until you are ready to start cooking.
  2. Before you start, put a small saucer in the freezer. Tip the berries, scraping out all juices and any undissolved sugar, into a preserving pan, or a large, wide-based pan (the wider and more open the pan, the faster the jam will be ready so a preserving pan is really ideal). Stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Start the berries over a low heat until all the sugar is completely dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins maximum.
  4. Skim off any excess scum, then stir in the knob of butter, if you want – this will help to dissolve any remaining scum. The jam will keep in a cool, dark place for at least 6 months. Refrigerate jars once opened.Blackcurrant and Apple Jam

(adapted from a recipe on http://www.blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk/recipes/apple-       blackcurrant-jam)

  • 500g blackcurrants
  • 500g bramley cooking apples
  • 2 tbsp Jo Hilditch cassis
  • 1 x 1kg pack preserving sugar
  1. Peel, core and chop the apples into small chunks and place the fruit in a large preserving pan (or a very large saucepan). Add the blackcurrants and cassis along with 2 tablespoons of water and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the apple and blackcurrants have reduced to a soft pulp – add a little more water if the fruit sticks to the base of the pan.
  2. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it is completely dissolved. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Cook the jam at a rapid boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the jam burning on the bottom of the pan. The jam should take 5-7 minutes to reach setting point.

Blackcurrant and Apricot Jam

  • 1 kg. (stoned) fresh apricots
  • 300g blackcurrants
  • 1.1kg sugar
  1. Cut the apricots into quarters; remove and discard the stones.
  2. Add them to the blackcurrants and sugar and leave in a cool place for 12 hours.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes maximum, stirring from time to time and skimming frequently.

 

 

Stuffed mushroom starter

4 chestnut mushrooms                                   fullsizeoutput_b93.jpeg

3 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 tbsp finely chopped onion

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp dried sage

Olive oil

Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat oven to 200 degree C.

Remove mushroom stalks and finely chop them.

Fry onion and garlic in olive oil till soft. *

Add mushroom stalks and fry gently.

Remove from heat, add breadcrumbs and sage.

Top each stuffed mushroom with Parmesan, according to your taste.

Place on baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a side salad.

*Finely chopped lardons of bacon can be added to the onion and garlic, if desired.

Pesto Pasta Salad

500g fusilli pasta                                         pesto pasta salad

For the pesto:

1-1/2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup fresh, finely grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp red- or white-wine vinegar

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

pinch salt

freshly ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:

Choose things like chopped cherry tomatoes, spinach leaves, feta, black olives, pine nuts.

  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions, drain and allow to cool.
  2. Put the pesto ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. When the pasta is cool, add your choice of salad ingredients.
  4. Pour pesto over the salad and toss the salad well.

Raspberry and Spinach Salad

Almond topping:rasp and spin salad

1/2 cup flaked almonds

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp water

Combine ingredients in frying pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar melts to golden brown and coats almonds (about 5 minutes). Pour out on to greaseproof paper. Allow to cool, then break into small pieces and use to sprinkle over salad.

Salad:

1 bag fresh spinach

2 cups fresh raspberries

Wash and dry spinach and place in large salad bowl with raspberries.

Dressing:

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (or cider vinegar)

2 tsp onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients and shake well to blend.

Pour dressing over salad (you don’t need all of it for one salad) and sprinkle with the caramelised almonds.

 

 

 

Mediterranean Chicken Casserole

Serves tuscan chicken

900g chicken fillets

2 cloves garlic

2 red chillies, finely chopped

2 dsp olive oil

2 red onions, sliced

900g ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 2 cans)

2 dsp red pesto

570ml chicken (or vegetable) stock

200g tinned chick peas

55g black olives

55g pine nuts

2 dsp sundried tomato paste

handful coriander

handful flat leaf parsley

1.Cut the chicken into long ribbon strips and place in a bowl with the garlic, chillies and half of the olive oil. Mix well and cover with cling film. Leave to marinate for at least one hour.

2. Place the other half of the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan and, when hot, add the chicken in batches if necessary. Cook until golden and crispy. Add the red onion and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, pesto and stock and simer gently over a low heat for 45 minutes, keeping the lid on.

3. Add chick peas, pine nuts, olives and sundried tomato paste and heat through for a further 8-10 minutes.

This casserole is even better the next day! So you can complete steps 1 and 2 ahead of time (the day before you need it). Make sure you heat through completely and then add step 3 just before serving.

Garnish with coriander and parsley and serve with rice.

Yoghurt Loaf

Easy to make and easy to measure as you just use the yoghurt pot!

1 carton yoghurt (whichever flavour you prefer)IMG_4476

3 cartons self-raising flour

2 cartons sugar

1 carton vegetable oil

3 eggs, beaten lightly

Mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Pour into a greased 2lb loaf tin and cook at 190ºC for one hour.

Wheaten shortbread

An old recipe of my mother’s, this shortbread tastes healthy (even if it isn’t!).

8 oz/225g margarine IMG_4475.JPG

4 oz/113g sugar

8 oz/225g oats

4 oz/113g flour

2 oz/57g coconut

Cream margarine and sugar in a food processor/mixer.

Add rest of ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Using a cookie cutter, cut into shapes and place on greased baking tray.

Cook at 150ºC for half an hour.